Losing Lebanon

What’s happening to you, dear Lebanon? Why do you allow yourself to continue plummeting into the abysmal darkness rather than pull yourself into the light where you once basked? Why aren’t you fighting for what you could be, nay, should be, permitting everyone instead to trample all over you?

I hardly recognize you from the beautiful Lebanon on which Lebanese-American writer Gibran Khalil Gibran once waxed poetic:

“I have my Lebanon and its beauty,” Gibran declared. Now fires run ablaze through your green frontiers, fires which the state struggles to subdue and douse because it willfully neglected to maintain its infrastructure. Where is your natural beauty now? Sullied and squandered.


Lebanon's cedars are mentioned numerously in the Bible


“My Lebanon is a flock of birds fluttering in the early morning as shepherds lead their sheep into the meadow, and rising in the evening as farmers return from their fields and vineyards,” Gibran went on to write. Your pastures have been besieged by land developers who insist on erecting more and more edifices, even when the country reels in financial turmoil, and new apartments sit vacant with not a buyer in sight able to render funds for their astronomical prices. Your mountains are carved out for their rock, your seas polluted with trash, your air contaminated with vehicle exhaust and the putrid stench of garbage piling up in the landfills. Where is the magnificent natural beauty which you once boasted?

In one eloquent passage, Gibran demands, “What will remain of your Lebanon after a century? Tell me! Except bragging, lying and stupidity? Do you expect the ages to keep in its memory the traces of deceit and cheating and hypocrisy? Do you think the atmosphere will preserve in its pockets the shadows of death and the stench of graves?”

Verily a century has passed since Gibran wrote those inflammatory words, and if you stop to consider them, you realize that by golly, “your Lebanon” has totally and completely materialized. The country sinks further and further into the recesses of an economic depression, but we try to deny it by pointing to an artificially vibrant nightlife, hookah cafes teeming with people, and the oft-quoted insuppressible “Lebanese love of life.”

We pretend we’re unfazed by constant political gridlock, that we need not concern ourselves in the affairs of the country, for those are reserved to the heads of state, who determine the fate of every last aspect, big or small. Be it tapping the natural gas reserves off our coast, or implementing a real waste management solution for the country, or reining in the public scare over tightened cash flow in US dollars to which the Lebanese lira is pegged… We pretend we will overcome it all and get back to partying like it’s pre-war 1969. We highlight the tantalizing cuisine and unique culture, the glistening blue Mediterranean and the lush mountainside, as though these outweigh and mask the lot of deficiencies that plague us.

We are entirely deluded. We are fooling ourselves, are we not, dear Lebanon? And are you not fooling yourself, too?

How much longer can you survive this misery, poor Lebanon? For let me tell you, this is no passing rut. This is a deep and extensive gash in your physical and cultural topographies. You will not emerge unscathed. Your identity has already morphed into something completely unknown to me from the Lebanon I cherished as a child visiting from abroad, a child who dreamt of making her ancestral land a permanent residence, a child who now grapples with her decision to transform that dream into reality in 2011, when she was certain her motives were logical and sound.


Landing in Tripoli, Lebanon, in January 2011


How much more can you take, dear Lebanon? Pull yourself up from the ashes, the rubble, the disillusionment, the betrayal, the hatred, the pillaging, the destruction. Pull yourself up and reclaim your place at the altar of the tiny but mighty, for you have always been heralded for your resilience. Prove that you are indeed buoyant.

We can no longer wait. And you can no longer take any more of this.


Comments

  1. We have lost our way -- as a government, as a people, and as a country.

    ReplyDelete

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